Parliament House Victoria
(Image: AAP/Con Chronis)

A SELECT FEW

Four senior Victorian frontbenchers will reportedly quit their posts ahead of the state election, The Age says — they are Deputy Premier James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Industry Support, Tourism, Sport and Major Events Minister Martin Pakula, and Police and Water Minister Lisa Neville. It means Premier Daniel Andrews will have to do a quick reshuffle of the frontbench ahead of the November poll and take a new fleet to the voters. It could be a good thing for his third-term prospects, The Australian ($) reports — out with the old, in with the new, and all that.

So why are the foursome quitting now instead of seeing out their terms? One source told the paper they want to leave time for new ministers to meet the public, and besides, they’ve got seven decades of experience between them and feel it’s time. Neville is also battling some health issues ($). They’ll join Planning Minister Richard Wynne who confirmed he won’t contest the election earlier this year, the Herald Sun ($) adds. That means a dozen of Andrew’s 2018 cabinet have left — and all eyes are on Treasurer Tim Pallas, with rumours swirling he might go next (he’s denying it).

RESET IN PARIS

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be cracking open the Pernod with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron next week as our PM tries to work things out with France in the wake of our messy breakup. Albanese acknowledged “we do need to reset” our diplomatic relations, ABC reports, but said the pair had already had some good chats. Earlier this month, Labor announced it’ll pay compensation to the French shipbuilder tasked with the $90 billion submarine deal we ditched — some $835 million, AFR reports. Dismally, the Morrison government wasted $3.4 billion on the whole submarine saga — Albanese called that an “extraordinary” amount from the public purse. France is a pretty important strategic partner, the PM continued — it’s a key power in the Pacific, and things are testy there at the moment amid China’s growing military might. Speaking of Albo’s predecessor, Scott Morrison and his deputy Barnaby Joyce were the country’s most unpopular leaders since 1987, a new report has found. Interestingly, Guardian Australia reports, the survey also found voters who supported the teal independents actually jumped ship from Labor and the Greens, not the Coalition.

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Speaking of unpopular former leaders, the public servant who was midway through recruiting the NSW senior trade and investment commissioner was told to stand down as it was to be handled internally instead, Guardian Australia reports. The instruction came just days before then state Nationals leader John Barilaro resigned from Parliament last December. His appointment to the plum role has sparked two separate inquiries — from the upper house and from the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Michael Coutts-Trotter, not least because a mid-2021 round of recruitment had whittled down to two great candidates — Jenny West and Rob Fitzpatrick, as ABC reports. Both exceeded three criteria and met the fourth — and then premier Gladys Berejiklian actually told West she got the job — but curiously her successor Premier Dominic Perrottet says he was told the right fit hadn’t been found, so they readvertised the job around Christmas. Barilaro was announced as the pick last week.

A MATTER OF WORDS

The majority of parents from a Sydney Anglican school are reportedly incensed that the incoming principal must sign a statement affirming they believe marriage can exist only between a man and a woman, The Australian ($) reports. It comes after Julie Townsend quit her post as principal of St Catherine’s School — the diocese has said the new appointment must sign on the dotted line, but parents said it was “asserting that the law of the land is wrong” and that the school has a “moral duty of care” to the kids. Meanwhile in Victoria, Health chief Brendan Murphy is getting heat for a “78-word definition of woman” — according to the Herald Sun ($), that is. His response includes “The frameworks adopted to define a person’s gender include chromosomal makeup, the gender assigned at birth, and the gender with which a person identifies” but continues that the department doesn’t adopt a single definition.

In Queensland now, and news.com.au reports maternity leave will be known as “birth-related leave” after gender-neutral changes to the state’s industrial relations laws. The new language reflects that both fathers and mothers take leave to care for bubs — not that news.com.au included any stats in their story about that, or even pointed it out. To some important issues now and WA’s mining report has shown predatory sexual behaviour is rife in the sector, Guardian Australia says. The Western Australian parliamentary committee recommended mining should look at creating a register of sexual offenders.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Folks, there’s been a conviction in a high-profile art heist involving one of the most famous artists of our time… and a door. In 2019, a group of men arrived outside the Bataclan in Paris at 4am, scampering to the side of the concert hall down a skinny street. Using electric tools, they burst open the security entrance and, once inside, went straight for a door. Why? Street artist Banksy had spray painted one of his characteristic designs onto it — in this case, a “sad girl” in memory of the Bataclan attack. The thieves lugged the entire thing out and into a van. French police figured something like this requires specific tools, so they went to hardware stores, eventually zeroing in on some customers who were in Italy by this stage. Among those sentenced was a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan — he was thought to be the mastermind.

So who is Banksy, anyway? Almost nobody knows for sure — the street artist rose from obscurity in the early 21st century and there have been plenty of attempts to unmask him, but none successful. He could be Robert Del Naja, who is a member of band Massive Attack, a known graffiti artist before he became a musician. In 2020, some speculated he was Neil Buchanan — you know, the Art Attack presenter? This year, a local British councillor Billy Gannon was rumoured to be Banksy — he actually resigned over it, no joke, saying the persistent speculation was hindering his ability to work. Perhaps the most compelling theory, however, is that he is Robin Gunningham — some of his school mates confirmed it, an early signature and early graffiti art matches Banksy’s, and in 2017 a DJ referred to Banksy as “Rob”. But this could be all part of Banksy’s own heist — there’s no telling how deep the illusion and trickery goes, really.

Wishing you a little mystery on your Friday too, and have a restful weekend ahead.

SAY WHAT?

The statement ‘always was, always will be, Aboriginal land’, is wrong and I find it personally offensive. This land belongs to all Australians, black and white.

Tim Smith

Aside from the fact the Victorian MP seems to genuinely believe Australia is only made up of black and white people, Indigenous Australians are the oldest living culture on the planet, having lived in Australia for more than 50,000 years. The British got here 252 years ago.

CRIKEY RECAP

Exclusive video inside the Hillsong downfall as Bobbie Houston and others hear of Pastor Brian’s transgressions  

“Some things that arrive in the Crikey bunker are just too good to keep to ourselves. So in the interests of sharing and for completeness of the historic record, we bring you the full-length video version of the all-in Zoom meeting earlier this year when shell-shocked Hillsong staff heard the grim details of global pastor Brian Houston’s career-ending ‘transgressions’.

“Downfall: The Movie features stand-in global pastor Phil Dooley who delivers an emotion-charged address. The pastor just this month spoke of a new ‘no secrets’ era as the giant church moves on from the Houston troubles, so we trust this is the kind of transparency he was hoping for.”


National carrier is another failure on the wrecked road of privatisation — and its daily ‘fails’ hurt everyone

“That inevitably flows through to the experience of customers. Qantas’ inability to get bags on the right flights, or even simply avoid losing luggage, is a direct result of Alan Joyce’s illegal sacking of baggage handlers during the pandemic, and the outsourcing of baggage handling to tax haven-based Swissport, which has long relied on casualisation and precarious work practices like shift splitting to keep costs down, and which now complains it can’t attract workers.

“While Qantas has followed a very traditional trajectory of privatisation that has led to tens of thousands of sackings and declining services, Telstra and Qantas also delivered systemic failure as a result of privatisation. In selling Telstra, the Howard government sold its capacity to build major communications infrastructure.”


Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky have unusual advantages as swimmers. We should ban them, right?

Michael Phelps won 28 Olympic medals, the most of any Olympic athlete in any sport ever. How? Willpower, training and a distinct genetic advantage. Phelps’s wingspan is three inches longer than his height, giving him propulsion way beyond the norm. Combined with an abnormally long upper body, short lower body, and size 14 feet, he was built for speed in the pool.

“And there’s more: for no particular reason, Phelps’ body produces half the lactic acid of an average swimmer, vastly improving his resistance to fatigue and hastening recovery time between swims. Yet nobody has ever suggested that Phelps should be excluded from competition, handicapped or restricted to a special category where he could only compete against other athletes weirdly augmented by the genetic lottery.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

FDA orders Juul to stop selling e-cigarettes (The New York Times)

Nuclear power is poised for a comeback. The problem is building the reactors. (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Nike latest brand to leave Russia permanently (BBC)

Eurovision organisers double down that Ukraine cannot safely host 2023 contest (The Guardian)

Supreme Court overturns New York’s concealed carry law in blow to gun reform advocates (CBC)

The Ohio State University trademarks ‘the’ (The New York Times)

Biden administration agrees to cancel another $6b in student loan debt for defrauded borrowers (CNN)

Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar ex-leader sent to solitary confinement (BBC)

THE COMMENTARIAT

On JobSeeker, I often just had one meal a day. Now I am worried I’ll need to get used to that againPeter Sutton (Guardian Australia): “For over 33 years of my life, I was employed in banking and retail until I was struck by a motor vehicle at a pedestrian crossing. I had private health insurance, life insurance and income protection. I supported charities and local businesses. Since the accident in 2006, I have struggled with chronic pain. I have disc bulges throughout my spine. I have nerve pain and PTSD and anxiety.

“Over the years, I made several attempts to return to my job, however my position was terminated in 2018 and I went on Newstart (now JobSeeker). In my experience, it simply is not enough to help someone secure employment. A job applicant who is hungry or sick will not perform well in interviews or aptitude tests, even if they can afford the transport fare or fuel to get there. When former prime minister Scott Morrison said that the best form of welfare is a job — to me that sounded like it means unemployment is a choice.”

Time to put the transgender genie back in the bottleAndrew Webster (The SMH): “How many phone calls do you think the Australian Olympic Committee has fielded in the past six years from petrified sports federations anxious about what to do with transgender athletes? Take a shot. Hundreds? Dozens? A dozen? Try one. One phone call. Six years. So much for platoons of male athletes rushing off for gender reassignment and hormone treatment so they can snatch Olympic gold out of the hands of female athletes. So much for the end of sport as we know it.

“FINA’s decision to ban transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s events is the problematic but right call for a complex and highly politicised issue — but it’s time to give it some context. At last count, this decision will immediately affect one athlete: American swimmer Lia Thomas. At last count, you needed one hand to tally the number of athletes across all Olympic sports who identify as transgender.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

  • NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet will speak to the Property Council at the Fullerton Hotel, following the NSW budget being handed down.

  • Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to Australia, Xiao Qian, will speak about the state of relations between Australia and the PRC.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Greens leader Adam Bandt will speak to the Queensland Media Club about his party holding the balance of power.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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